It turns out that despite the recent ‘Deflategate’ (is that a real word?) scandal, Super Bowl XLIX pits the New England Patriots (my favorite/beloved team for reasons only those affiliated with Columbia University in the City of New York may know) against the Seattle Seahawks this coming Sunday, February 1, 2015, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30pm EST.
Your work environment can resemble a betting hall or debate club this week, whether your employees/co-workers are real football fans or not. Employees are notorious for organizing pools to select the Super Bowl victor with arguments going to/fro and back/forth on the merits and shortcomings of each team. An employer needs to know when to draw the line between good old-fashioned fun (something I think is absolutely necessary in the work environment) and disruptive, or even illegal, behavior. There is no question that these events can cause major distractions in many workplaces and gambling associated with these events create a wide range of risks for employers, like productivity loss, discrimination, whistleblower issues, disability issues and even criminal penalties. These risks are often overlooked and both employers and employees need to be familiar with some of the risks.
The next federal law is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which makes it illegal for anyone to operate ‘a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme…in which amateur or professional athletes participate.’ The Uniform Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) provides ‘no person engaged in the business of betting or wagering may knowingly accept’ funds in ‘connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling’. There is an exception to this law for Fantasy Football but this will become extremely ‘technical’ and that is not my point…
Office pools may be illegal. Gambling is illegal in most states although some states allow exceptions for social gambling, which is typically defined as betting that happens in a strictly social context, in which the betters previously knew one another and in which no ‘bookies’ are involved. Please research your state’s laws to see if your office Super Bowl pool falls under the above notated exemption. If it is a company sponsored pool, the employer needs to clarify with the employees that participation is completely voluntary and that no negative action will be taken if an employee chooses NOT to participate. The management team needs to learn to set an example; if they are spending a good deal of time on the ‘pool’, then employees have a tendency to follow.
On a state level, whether a Super Bowl pool or any other type of ‘pool’ is legal will depend on the state. Although most states ban gambling, state gaming laws typically provide exceptions for ‘social’ or ‘recreational’ gambling, but to qualify for these exceptions, the following must occur:
***All the money in the pool must go to the winner or a charitable organization;
***There must be a maximum amount a person can wager as an entry fee;
***The pool must be limited to a certain number of people with pre-existing relationships (like co-workers or family members)
A 2013 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) survey found that most employers do not have policies regulating workplace betting pools. More than 8 in 10 surveyed organizations had no written or unwritten policies about such pools, an increase from 67% in 2010….even though a large percentage of American adults belt on the Super Bowl. I would encourage every employer to include a workplace gambling policy which expressly describes the type of gambling that is permitted….or one that specifically prohibits any workplace gambling.
A good practice is for a company to be alert to problem gamblers. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events of the year for large scale gamblers, and those that have addictions can suffer severe loss. Problem gamblers may sometimes feel that the only way to compensate for their previous loss is to gamble more and more. Signs of the problem gambler may include repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling, losing sleep over thoughts of gambling, arguing with others about gambling behavior and depression due to gambling losses.
The 2013 SHRM survey also found that HR professionals see workplace pools as having a positive impact on employee morale. More than 70% noted a positive impact on relationship building, 64 percent thought pools promoted team building and 54 percent said they increased employee engagement.
There are ways that employees can celebrate the Super Bowl without extending any cash and not having to worry about whether the ‘gambling’ is legal or not. Some ideas may include the following:
***Have employees bet on a team and reward the ‘winners’ with gift cards, restaurant vouchers, movie tickets, money donated to the charity of their choice, etc.;
***Divide the employees and play other competitive games the Friday prior to the Super Bowl with the same types of prizes for winners as noted above;
***Have a luncheon the Friday before the game and encourage a spirited discussion on the teams playing in the Super Bowl, the NFL or football in general, etc. (a good one!!!);
***Encourage employees to wear their team colors the week before the Super Bowl.
It turns out that someone, somewhere did a study and learned that American employers lose up to $16 million for every minute their employees spend focused on the Super Bowl….hence, the reason and encouragement for ‘controlled’ social event coordination.
Another thing to look out for is time off and/or productivity or lack thereof on the day after the Super Bowl. I don’t have statistics for this but please encourage your employees to plan for time off rather than have the employees call in ‘sick’, something that will certainly affect productivity the day after the game. Planning is the key to having the great American past time have as little effect on productivity in the workplace as possible. We all want to encourage fun…let’s see that it is beneficial for all concerned.
Excerpts from this BLOG are taken from the following link: www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/employerrelations/articles/pages/super-bowl-office-gambling/aspx
If you would like further information as to promoting team building or developing a policy for workplace gambling, please contact me, Rosanne Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 484-798-1236. Enjoy the Super Bowl!!! Go Patriots….and don’t forget there is still March Madness.